Tag Archives: covenant theology

The Jerusalem Question: What is “Covenant Theology” vs. “Dispensationalism”?

On May 14, 2018 the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the first nation to do so, since the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, seventy years ago. Christians are divided as to the significance of what this means. According to a 2017 LifeWay research study on “Evangelical Attitudes Toward Israel,” many older evangelical Christians support Israel, and their right to the land, based on their understanding of the Bible. Therefore, the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is generally considered to be a good thing. But a growing number of mainly younger evangelical Christians do not share any “strong views” about Israel, based on their understanding of the Bible. These Christians are less enthusiastic about the U.S. move.

Why do Christians not agree about Israel, and Israel’s right to the land, with Jerusalem as its capital?

To get at the heart of the debate, you have to know something about the decades old discussion between “covenant theology” and “dispensationalism.” If you no have idea what “covenant theology” and “dispensationalism” are about, the following video would be a good place to start.

Greg Koukl is the director of Stand to Reason, an apologetics ministry that I find has very helpful resources. If you were looking for a short primer to explain the difference between covenant theology and dispensationalism, then this would be a great investment of less than nine minutes of your time. Greg leans more towards the dispensational side of the equation, but he succinctly and fairly represents both sides.

About two years ago, I embarked on a blog series study on “Christian Zionism,” the idea that God has a plan to restore the ancient borders of ethnic, national Israel. The story of “Christian Zionism” requires a basic knowledge of “covenant theology” and “dispensationalism.” Over the coming year, I plan on posting the remaining drafts of that series, interspersed among other posts. If you want to explore more as to how I got interested in this discussion, you can start here.


Is Jerusalem the Capital of Israel?… (A Blog Post Compendium)

U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, at Jerusalem’s “Wailing Wall,” January 23, 2018. While many American Christians enthusiastically supported the visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, to Jerusalem, many Middle Eastern Christian leaders refused to meet with him. Why the rebuff of the American leader, by fellow Christians? (photo credit: REUTERS, Ronen Zvulun)

U.S. President Donald Trump made news in December, 2017, by announcing that the United States would move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to honor the Israeli claim that Jerusalem is truly the capital of that modern nation-state. For many Christians, when they read their Bibles, they think that this is a “no-brainer.” Jerusalem has been the center of Judaism since the days of the Old Testament. Why not now?

But a lot of other Christians, when they read their Bibles, beg to differ.

As British theologian Ian Paul writes, Theodore Herzl, the pioneer of modern Jewish Zionism, modestly envisioned Mount Carmel as the capital for a modern Jewish state, and not Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of modern Israel, was willing to accept the loss of Jerusalem as the price to be paid for having a homeland at all, for the Jews, in the Middle East.

The 1967, Six-Days War, whereby Israeli forces took control of all of Jerusalem, changed all of that.

The latest move by the United States, as many see it, is simply accepting what everyone knows is the reality behind modern day Israel.  Why pretend? Jerusalem is, and should be, the capital of Israel.

Well, others are quite uncomfortable with the idea, The planned implementation of U.S. foreign policy creates concerns that this move could lead (and in a few cases, has already led) to unnecessary violence..

They call Jerusalem, the “city of peace.” Why then, is it so controversial? What does the Bible have to say about all of this? Continue reading


VIDEO: Romans 9-11 Panel Discussion Night Two

Veracity thanks everyone who participated in the panel discussion over the past two weeks in the Williamsburg area, those on the panel, as well as everyone who put their questions forward. I personally learned a lot, and it prompts me to study God’s Word even more! Hopefully, this will be a blessing for those who wrestle these issues, engaging the heart and the mind.

UPDATE: 10/19/2016

Hunter Ruch went to the trouble of going through the video and marking the time segments, allowing you to skip to particular questions you are interested in.  Thanks, Hunter (though it was his wife’s idea to do this)!

WEEK 2 (9/4):

  • Introduction, Review & Definition of Terms by Clarke Morledge (0:00-23:11)
  • Question #1: Election and Salvation? Why do I need to understand the theory of election? (23:12-34:11)
  • Question #2: Clarify the use of “Hebrew,” “Israelites,” and “Jews.” (34:12-42:26)
  • Question #3: The Land of Israel? (42:27-1:00:45)
  • Question #4: One or Two Paths to God? (1:00:46-1:02:44)
  • Question #5:  The Dangers of Neglecting Ethnic Israel? (1:02:45-1:08:49)
  • Question #6: Obsession vs. Negative Views of Israel? (1:08:49-1:18:57)
  • Conclusion by Travis Simone (1:18:58-1:37:44)

 


Who is a “True” Jew?

Who is a "true" Jew, according to the New Testament?

Who is a “true” Jew, according to the New Testament?

Throughout the Old Testament, generally speaking, a “Jew” is someone who is a member of God’s covenant people, bound together by the Law of Moses given on Mount Sinai, as defined by the first five books of the Bible. In contrast, a “Gentile” is someone who is not a Jew[1]. For example, Jews keep the requirement of male circumcision, whereas Gentiles do not. Historically however, those who can trace their ancestral lineage back to this special nation of people, Israel, are still considered to be “Jewish,” even if they do not keep all of the rules associated with Moses.  I have known a number of  Jewish people who would consider themselves to be agnostics or atheists. These people are “ethnically Jewish,” though not “religiously Jewish.” But this distinction often causes confusion.

So, when we think of someone who is a “Jew,” do we mean someone who is ethnically Jewish? Or do we mean someone who is a practicing or believing Jew, someone who really believes in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Does the New Testament help us out here?
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Replacing Replacement Theology?

Clarence Larken (1850-1924) was an American Baptist pastor who developed charts like these that depict a dispensationalist view of the End Times. If you click on the image to expand the detail, you will see how Larkin divided the church on the left from Israel on the right. Contemporary followers of Larkin accuse "replacement theology" of wiping out Israel's place in Biblical prophecy.

Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) was an American Baptist pastor who developed charts like these that depict a dispensationalist view of the End Times, as popularized in the immensely influential Scofield Reference Bible. If you click on the image to expand the detail, you will see how Larkin divided the church on the left from Israel on the right. Contemporary followers of Larkin sometimes accuse “replacement theology” of wiping out Israel’s essential place in Biblical prophecy.

What is “replacement theology?”

About twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. I looked out over the Sea of Galilee. I climbed part of the great mountain fortress of Masada. I witnessed orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall. I walked the streets of Jerusalem down the Via Dolorosa, the Israeli flag flying high and proudly over several of these streets. It was a breathtaking experience.

However, the exhilaration was soberly offset by a conversation I had with the bus driver for our tour group. Like many other Palestinian Christians, his family had lived in the land for centuries with their Jewish and Muslim neighbors, mostly at peace. However, the events of the past 60+ years between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors have resulted in persecution for his family. He never went into the details, but I was always puzzled by what he meant by that.

Later on in the tour, when our group came to a stone gate in East Jerusalem, our bus driver nervously pointed out the bullet holes where Israeli and Jordanian fighters clashed with one another during the electrifying 1967 Six Day War. On the one hand, I felt then the thrill of the Israeli victory and reclamation of the ancient city that was discussed in this previous Veracity post.

But I had become also deeply troubled: what side was our Christian bus driver’s family on during that bitter conflict, or were they simply caught in the middle of the violence (like in this recent piece of news)? As I am writing this in July, 2014, Israel and Gaza’s Hamas have for weeks been involved in a deadly exchange, and Christians like this Baptist church in Gaza are vulnerable to the crossfire.

What is a Christian to think about the prophetic promises regarding national Israel, while also considering the challenges faced by Palestinian Christians living in the contested land in Middle East today, like my bus driver? What does the Bible have to say?

The study of Bible prophecy is a complicated subject and passions run very, very deep when people talk about “Israel.” Most evangelical Christians believe that “Israel” has a special place in God’s future plans, but there is a growing widespread confusion as to what this really means. So I must admit that I get conflicted when some Christians begin to talk about  the errors of “replacement theology.”  What is being meant when people speak of “replacement theology?” Granted, some criticisms are indeed valid, but a quick survey of what you find on YouTube can be rather troubling. Here is the ever colorful television personality Jack Van Impe:

Well,… uh, ok… now… what in the world is this guy talking about??????????
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